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AI/Automation

Dish's Boost Mobile to add telemedicine to the bundle

Boost Mobile, the Dish Network MVNO, has announced that it will bundle K Health's remote-care service with its flagship unlimited-data plan.

Subscribers to Boost's Unlimited Plus plan – a $60 per month offering with 35GB of on-phone LTE data, of which 30GB is available for mobile-hotspot use – can get K Health's Primary Care plan "early this summer," Boost's press release says.

The service, which costs $9/month as a standalone offering, covers symptom assessments, remote health checkups and prescriptions through its Android and iOS apps, and offers discounts of up to 80% on prescription drugs. Boost will also offer K Health's Primary Care for $7.99 a month with other phone plans.

"Boost Mobile customers are disproportionately affected by rising health care costs, and Boost Mobile is bridging the gap by providing affordable wireless access, and now we want to expand those efforts to address the health care divide," says Boost's Boost executive vice president, Stephen Stokols, in the press release. "K Health is the perfect partner to create a pathway to better health for individuals and families who do not have affordable access to medical services, which we estimate is up to half of our user base."

The release also quotes K Health co-founder and chief product officer Ran Shaul: "Our partnership brings together Boost Mobile's innovation with K's unique combination of shared knowledge, made possible by AI, and our fleet of world-class clinicians to offer 24/7 access to the best high-quality medicine – all from a smartphone."

K Health, based in New York and Tel Aviv, launched in July of 2018 with funding from the Israeli health-maintenance organization Maccabi Health. That HMO also shared its database of health events with K Health to help spin up its machine-learning system, which analyzes data from cohorts of people with similar biological traits to assess a patient's self-reported symptoms. K Health now lays claim to more than 4 million users.

The coronavirus pandemic has fueled a boom for telemedicine in general. In March, FAIR Health, a New York non-profit that says it works to "bring transparency to healthcare costs and health insurance information," reported that its data showed telehealth claim lines soaring by 2,817% nationwide from December 2019 to December 2020.

Boost adding a non-telecom service like telemedicine to its own menu has little precedent in the industry outside of the mobile banking service T-Mobile launched in 2019, following an earlier "Mobile Money" trial in 2014.

In September of 2020, just after being hired, Stokols told Light Reading that he aimed to bring some creativity in "value-added services that add to the overall wireless experience."

Stokols, who as founder of the Sprint MVNO FreedomPop developed a reputation for bold marketing strategies that included free data, said in that interview that the industry had shown a lack of imagination outside of things like T-Mobile's spam-blocking services.

(In March, Boost added a $5.99 "Privacy Premium" option that includes spam-call blocking as well as automatic encryption of data when on Wi-Fi.)

"Outside of that, you don't see a lot of innovation around the value-added services piece," Stokols said in September. "That's our opportunity to add more value to the customer beyond voice, text and data."

— Rob Pegoraro, special to Light Reading. Follow him @robpegoraro.

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